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Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo on its way to a record 71,000 ft altitude and Mach 1.4 (Pho...

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo (SS2) continues to inch toward a full suborbital test flight with its third supersonic test carried out Friday morning. The SS2 rocket engine fired for 20 seconds, pushing the suborbital spacecraft to an altitude of 71,000 ft (18 km) and a top speed over Mach 1.4, both of which were new records for SS2. The Reaction Control System, feather re-entry system, and a thermal protection coating were successfully tested during the flight.  Read More

An Antares launch vehicle boosts the Orbital Sciences Cygnus spacecraft on it's way to the...

Orbital Sciences Corporation today successfully launched the first of eight Cygnus cargo supply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). Orbital's Antares medium-lift rocket (originally called the Taurus II) carried the Cygnus into an initial orbit of 135 x 175 miles (220 x 280 km), inclined at 51.6 degrees relative to the equator. The Cygnus is flying solo now, with full communications and deployed solar arrays, carrying roughly 2,800 lb (1,300 kg) of cargo toward a January 12 rendezvous and docking with the ISS.  Read More

2013 YP139 showing up as a red dot traveling across the sky (Image: NASA)

NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) may have only come back online last September after a 31-month hibernation, but it’s already producing results. According to the space agency, the unmanned spacecraft discovered a never-before-seen asteroid on December 29 – the first discovery of its new mission to seek out potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs).  Read More

Path of asteroid (872) Holda, as seen by NEOWISE, shown as a dotted red line (Image: NASA)

NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) has sent back the first test images from its 16-in (40-cm) telescope and infrared cameras as it is prepared for its new mission. Intended to seek out potentially dangerous asteroids and help in selecting a near-Earth object as part of the space agency’s asteroid retrieval effort, NASA says NEOWISE will be a powerful tool for discovering, cataloging and understanding the asteroids in the inner Solar System.  Read More

Artist's concept of the LLCD transmitting to Earth (Image: NASA)

This week, NASA released the results of its Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration’s (LLCD) 30-day test carried out by its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) that is currently in orbit around the Moon. According to the space agency, the LLCD mission proved that laser communications are practical at a distance of a quarter of a million miles and that such a system could perform as well, if not better, than any NASA radio system.  Read More

Gizmag looks back on the space highlights of 2013

This has been a busy year in space, with rovers roving on Mars and the first landing on the Moon in 40 years, the search for life beyond our Earth heating up, and 3D printing moving into orbit. As a Chinese rover explores the lunar surface and astronauts work to repair the International Space Station (ISS), Gizmag looks back on the space highlights of 2013.  Read More

Lift off of Gaia (Photo: ESA)

A cosmic census got under way this morning as ESA’s Gaia mission lifted off atop a Soyuz–Fregat from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 9:12:19 AM GMT (10:12:19 AM CET). The 2,030 kg (4,475 lb) unmanned probe is at the start of a five-year mission to carry out a survey of one percent of one percent of the 100 billion stars that make up our galaxy as part of a project to produce the most detailed three-dimensional galactic map ever attempted.  Read More

The tests aim at reducing the weight of the SLS by 20 percent (Image: NASA)

On December 9, NASA began what is either an impressive engineering test or a classic example of world-class larking about. At the space agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, engineers are crushing an enormous can by subjecting it to almost one million pounds of force. This may seem like a party trick that’s gone out of control, but there’s a serious reason behind this … or so NASA says. The crushing is part of the project to design the fuel tanks for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which will be used to launch the Orion spacecraft and deep space missions.  Read More

Artist's concept of the Juno flyby (Image: NASA)

If you want to have a starship captain’s view of flying past the Earth, then NASA is happy to oblige. This week, the space agency released a video made of images taken by the Juno space probe as it shot past our planet last October. The unmanned spacecraft was using the Earth’s gravity to build up its velocity by over 8,800 mph (14,100 km/h) and slingshot it on its way to Jupiter. And as it did so, it took the time to receive a “Hi” from ham radio operators back home.  Read More

The Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) is designed to track space debris and small objects

In order to dodge something, you need to see it. If that something is space debris then sometimes the best thing to use is an old-fashioned telescope – or, in the case of the US Department of Defense, a state-of-the-art telescope capable of searching an area larger than the United States in seconds. That’s why DARPA is preparing to deliver the new Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) to Western Australia, where it will help track small satellites and space debris orbiting the Earth when it becomes operational in 2016.  Read More

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